Migrant-Dependent UK Healthcare Battles Staffing Crisis

File: A member of the ambulance services assists in moving a patient from an ambulance to St Thomas' Hospital in London on March 31, 2020, as the country is under lockdown due to the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. Tolga AKMEN / AFP.
File photo: A member of the ambulance services assists in moving a patient from an ambulance to St Thomas’ Hospital in London on March 31, 2020, as the country is under lockdown due to the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. Tolga AKMEN / AFP.

 

Britain’s National Health Service, which provides free healthcare funded from general taxation and welfare contributions, is one of the world’s largest and most cosmopolitan employers.

But the NHS — which listed 211 nationalities in England alone in 2020 — faces chronic staff shortages.

By 2029, the state-run service in England will face a shortfall of 108,000 nurses, according to the Health Foundation think-tank.

Now there are fears the crisis will further deepen due to a combination of shocks depleting its substantial foreign workforce: retirement, the coronavirus pandemic, Brexit and tougher immigration rules.

Migration has long been a “stopgap solution” as Britain suffered “recurring crises” for 40 years, said Mark Dayan, policy analyst at the Nuffield Trust health think-tank.

 ‘No Chance’ 

Retired doctor Iftikhar Ali Syed left Pakistan for Britain in 1960 and spent 45 years working in Burnley, a northern English town defined by factory chimneys belching black smoke.

Syed, 86, belonged to a generation of medical professionals from ex-British colonies who filled labour shortages after World War II.

They were directed to poorer regions — often ex-industrial heartlands like northern England and south Wales — where recruitment was hardest and health needs greatest.

Even today, the life expectancy gap between deprived areas of northern England and the more affluent southeast is more than 10 years.

“Overseas doctors had no chance. You got a practice where no-one wants it,” Syed told AFP.

Syed and other immigrant doctors of his generation “flooded” Burnley, he remembered, helping to establish its first cardiology unit and improve midwifery services.

But they retired after 2000, creating a shortage in Burnley, mirrored in places where immigrants disproportionately filled healthcare roles.

 ‘Tremendous Demand’ 

As in other countries, the pandemic has traumatised and exhausted Britain’s frontline health and social care staff and created a huge backlog in treatments for other conditions.

In the year to March 2021, international travel disruptions meant 3,700 fewer nurses came to Britain than in the previous year.

Faizan Rana, a 34-year-old NHS operations manager, said pandemic travel curbs have weakened services and exacerbated staff shortages at his London hospital and elsewhere.

Britain has become less welcoming and financially rewarding for EU staff after the 2016 Brexit referendum and the subsequent fall in the pound’s value, added Dayan.

In 2021, there were around 8,000 fewer nurses from European Economic Area nations on the official register than in 2016.

And more than half of EU nurses leaving Britain cited the country’s departure from the bloc as a reason for their decision, a 2020 Nursing and Midwifery Council survey suggested.

Syed remembered EU staff filling shortages in Burnley after his retirement and predicted “tremendous demand” again as their numbers diminished after Brexit.

‘Existential Crisis’ 

Under Britain’s new points-based immigration system, migrants must meet salary and English proficiency levels and have an offer for a skilled job, although a special visa scheme exempts healthcare workers.

Naveen Keerthi, 42, runs a recruitment agency bringing foreign doctors to Britain and believes the reforms will help hire overseas staff, with a “surge” in applicants in the past four years.

But Akshay Akulwar, a 34-year-old NHS doctor from India, said compatriots were increasingly choosing Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the Middle East because of more generous visa rules.

And Dayan said the reforms will hit social care, where staff are not considered skilled and paid low wages.

The fate of social care, where trained carers look after vulnerable people in their homes and offer mental health services, is closely tied to the NHS.

Hospitals suffer greater pressures when patients cannot be discharged as adequate care services — often provided by cash-strapped local authorities — are unavailable for them to return home.

Social care has particularly suffered as Brexit sealed the “escape valve” of freedom of movement across the EU that had filled staff shortages, Dayan added.

Rebecca Bland, registered manager at a nursing agency in northwest England, told AFP the pandemic and new immigration rules have hampered recruitment.

The 42-year-old’s company works with the local NHS and has long recruited from abroad, especially the Philippines, but has only hired one-tenth of the staff required since the pandemic began.

Bland said her colleagues were “being pushed to the limit”, calling it “an existential crisis” exacerbated by pre-existing recruitment difficulties caused by low-paid, insecure work.

Mixed Picture? 

However, Dayan blamed workforce shortages on decades-old failures by successive UK governments to train enough staff and provide adequate long-term planning.

“The underlying problems are domestic in nature,” he stressed.

The UK government last month announced new NHS and social care funding worth £36 billion ($50 billion, 42 billion euros) over three years.

But Dayan warned cash injections alone would not resolve staff shortages, instead advocating better workforce planning to recruit and retain staff more effectively.

AFP

England Opens Mass Vaccination Sites As COVID-19 Spike Fears Spread

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks to patients and staff at a mass vaccination centre at Ashton Gate stadium in Bristol, southwest England on January 11, 2021. (Photo by Eddie MULHOLLAND / POOL / AFP)

 

Seven mass coronavirus vaccination sites opened across England on Monday as the government raced to dose millions of people while a new strain of the disease runs rampant across the country.

The sites include football stadiums and a horse racing course, and are located in cities including Bristol, London, Newcastle and Manchester.

They are to vaccinate thousands per week and several more sites are expected to follow, according to the National Health Service (NHS) in England.

“I feel very relieved,” said Moira Edwards, 88, after receiving her first vaccination at Epsom Downs Racecourse, south of London, which is more famous for the Derby.

“I feel this is the way back. I can’t understand anybody not wanting to have it,” she added.

The mainly elderly recipients of the jab, some of whom used walkers, sticks or were pushed in wheelchairs to get to the centre, were given “I’ve had my Covid vaccination” stickers.

READ ALSO: Cyprus Leader Ready To Attend UN Meet On Ending Deadlock

Hospitals and pharmacies are set to begin offering the vaccine later this week, with the government hoping to have doses available for 12 million of England’s 56 million population by mid-February.

A further three million are being targeted by the same date in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Priority is being given to the elderly, care home residents and workers, the clinically extremely vulnerable, and health and social care staff.

Some 2.4 million people have already been vaccinated across the UK since the roll-out began of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab on December 8, according to vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi.

Britain has since approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Moderna jabs. The government has drafted in logistics experts from the army to help in the inoculation drive.

– ‘Worst weeks’ –

Britain is grappling with its worst outbreak of the disease since it hit the country early last year.

The record case rates and daily death toll are being blamed on a new, more transmissible strain, which has piled pressure on the NHS, leading to warnings of shortages of critical care beds.

The state-run NHS risks being overwhelmed and the country is in its third lockdown until at least mid-February, with predictions the restrictions could last even longer.

In Northern Ireland, health chiefs said the province’s hospitals were under intense pressure, and two health trusts had to draft in off-duty staff to alleviate pressure due the spike in cases.

“The next few weeks are going to be the worst weeks of this pandemic in terms of numbers into the NHS,” England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty told BBC television on Monday.

“What we need to do, before the vaccines have had their effect… is we need to really double down” on observing lockdown measures, he added.

Britain on Saturday said it had recorded over three million coronavirus cases since the pandemic began last year.

On Friday, it reported a record 1,325 deaths over a 24-hour period of people who tested positive for the virus, with fears that the fatalities could remain consistently high for weeks.

The full death toll now stands at more than 80,000, the highest in Europe.

At Leatherhead, near Epsom, bodies were being stored in a temporary 1,400-capacity mortuary because there was no space at local hospitals.

The local council said 170 bodies, more than half of which had been Covid fatalities, were being held at the makeshift facility, but the county would be in “real difficulty” if numbers rose further.

Zahawi urged the public to follow the lockdown rules, which include school closures, that some have criticised for not being strict enough.

“In supermarkets, we need to make sure people actually wear masks and follow the one-way system rule,” he told Sky News.

“We don’t want to go any tougher because this is a pretty tough lockdown, but what we need is people to behave as if they’ve got the virus so we can bring this virus under control whilst we vaccinate.”

UK Warned COVID-19 Test Shortages Harming Health System

(FILES) In this file photo Dr. Rhonda Flores looks at protein samples at Novavax labs in Gaithersburg, Maryland on March 20, 2020, one of the labs developing a vaccine for the coronavirus, COVID-19. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP)

 

Healthcare services are being jeopardised by lack of access to coronavirus testing, hospital bosses in England warned on Tuesday.

NHS Providers, which represents the heads of hospital trusts in the state-run National Health Service, said there were “current capacity problems with the testing regime”.

Its chief executive Chris Hopson said the government should prioritise health workers, as shortages of tests had caused a slew of staff absences in major cities.

Patients were also struggling to get tests, compounding delays within the NHS that have worsened since the outbreak began.

“We have now got cases where patients who should be being treated, we can’t treat them because they can’t get access to a test,” he told Sky News television in an interview.

“So, for them that’s a real problem.”

Hopson spoke after LBC radio reported on Monday that no coronavirus tests were available in any of the 10 worst hotspots in England.

The revelation followed weekend reports of a backlog of 185,000 swab tests, and that the system was so stretched samples were being sent to labs in Italy and Germany.

The UK government has blamed surging demand for the situation and promised increased capacity while urging people only to get tested if they are showing symptoms.

Interior minister Priti Patel denied claims of acute shortages in England’s hotspots, saying mobile testing units were boosting capacity in areas under local lockdowns.

“Clearly there is much more work that needs to be undertaken with Public Health England and the actual public health bodies in those particular local areas,” she told BBC radio on Tuesday.

Britain, which has been the worst-hit country in Europe registering nearly 42,000 deaths, has seen a resurgence in the virus in recent weeks.

The country recorded more than 3,000 new cases on three consecutive days over the weekend, for the first time since May.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had pledged to have a “world-beating” testing and tracing operation in place by June.

But alongside the faltering testing regime, the tracing system is still failing to reach the required number of people to work effectively.

Meanwhile, a much-touted smartphone app to help trace people is yet to launch in England.

Scotland, which runs health from the devolved administration in Edinburgh, launched an app last week using technology developed by Apple and Google.

AFP

VIDEO: NHS Saved Me From Coronavirus, Says Boris Johnson

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a news conference at 10 Downing Street in London on March 12, 2020. SIMON DAWSON / POOL / AFP

 

 

British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has thanked the National Health Service (NHS) for saving him from COVID-19.

The British leader praised the service in a video on Sunday — his first message after recovering from coronavirus.

Johnson, 55, was discharged from St Thomas’ Hospital after he was admitted for treatment for COVID-19 and spent three days in intensive care.

The excited Prime Minister said he could not find the words to express his gratitude to the health workers.

“It is hard to find the words to express my debt to the NHS for saving my life,” he said in the five-minute video posted on his Twitter handle.

Johnson added, “The efforts of millions of people across this country to stay home are worth it. Together we will overcome this challenge, as we have overcome so many challenges in the past.

“The reason, in the end, my body did start to get enough oxygen was because for every second of the night they were watching and they were thinking and they were caring and making the interventions I needed.”

Johnson will not be resuming work immediately based on the advice from the healthcare workers.

Watch the video shared by the British leader below:

Uk Hospitals Hit By Large-Scale Cyberattack

A large-scale cyberattack has plunged the UK’s health service into chaos.

Computers in hospitals and clinics across the country shut down on Friday, forcing patients to be turned away.

IT systems and telephone networks appear to have been targeted, with some hospitals now operating on an emergency-only basis.

The “ransomware” computer attack demands $300 per computer in electronic currency in order to free files from encryption.

A message appearing on screens across the National Health Service warns time is running out to make payment.
Patients have reported being turned away, while some are stuck at hospital without access to discharge data.

NHS England have confirmed they are aware of the problem and say they will release details soon.

Reuters

Studies Propose ‘Skunk-like Cannabis’ Increases Risk Of Psychosis

cannabisStudy shows that 24 per cent of new psychosis cases is as a result of smoking potent cannabis (Skunk).

King’s College, London’s research carried out by the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience on 780 persons, suggests that the risk of psychosis develops more, as a result of high consumption of potent cannabis (skunk).

A spokesperson for the research group said the report underlines why cannabis is illegal.

Scientists found the risk of psychosis was five times higher for those who use it regularly compared to non-users.

The scientists also concluded that the use of hash, a milder form of the drug, was not associated with increasing the risk of psychosis.

Psychosis refers to delusions or hallucinations that can be present in certain psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Dr Marta Di Forti, lead author on the research, had said that, “compared with those who had never tried cannabis, users of high potency skunk-like cannabis had a threefold increase in risk of psychosis, adding that the result of the test shows the risk in the use of Cannabis depends on the frequency of use and the content,

Dr Di Forti in a radio programme said the availability of skunk-like cannabis was becoming more widespread.

Robin Murray, Professor of Psychiatric Research at King’s, also commented: “This paper suggests that we could prevent almost one quarter of cases of psychosis if no-one smoked high potency cannabis, adding that it could save young patients a lot of suffering and the NHS a lot of money.”